“Here is what I want you to do,” the megachurch pastor said to the hundreds of pastors who had come to his conference, “I want you to break out into groups of three or four and take turns telling each other the thing that you hate the most about being a pastor.”
Murmurs broke out throughout the auditorium as groups formed and pastors began to talk and share their burdens with one another.
“What I hate the most is when celebrity pastors tell you to turn around and share your guts with people you don’t even know!” cracked one pastor named Thomas. “It’s as if talking in a small group for a few minutes will make it different than it really is – hundreds of us flocking to a successful church to find out how it’s done, how to do a few tricks and get everyone to our church.”
“Oh, I don’t know, he might be going somewhere with this that will really make a difference in our lives and in our churches,” said Pastor Brian. “Maybe after our gripe session we will pray for one another or brainstorm together for some solutions. Let’s give it a chance.”
“Okay, then,” interjected Pastor Mark, “Who will go first, what bothers you the most about being a pastor?”
“Board meetings!” exclaimed Thomas and Brian at the same time.
“I was thinking the same thing! Except that we call them church council meetings,” said Mark as he shook his head in amazement. “This was easier than I thought. Let’s go a little deeper though. What is it about board meetings that we don’t like?”
“The battle of the wills!” said Thomas. “One person wants this, another wants that, and it become a big argument and usually the one with the most powerful personality wins. I don’t have the stomach for it. Sometimes I just want to slink away into the corner and watch from a distance.”
“I know what you mean,” said Brian. “That bothers me too. But what often gets me worked up is the enormity of the task and the limitations of our resources. There is so much to be done and so many bills to be paid but we have only a limited amount of time and money. How do we decide where to cut corners or which ministries to kill when people’s lives are at stake? Do we cut benevolence funding? Outreach funds? People’s salaries? We always have more ideas than we have money and people to do them.”
As Brian was talking, another pastor with the nametag of Gabe approached the group. “Do you mind if I join you guys?” he asked.
“Sure, come and join us!” the group agreed. “We were just talking about board meetings and how much we hate them.”
“Oh, I can relate to that.” said Gabe. “I used to dread board meetings. But we made a few changes and now I look forward to them.”
“What did you do different?” asked Mark. “We would love to know. We need to know.”
“It was quite simple, really, once the Spirit enlightened us. I guess that’s how it always is, though, in the things of God. Things that seem impossible or incredibly complex can be overcome by the hand of God on a situation. In my case, I was at the end of my rope when it came to board meetings. We were all fighting among ourselves and hopelessly divided on nearly every issue. We couldn’t agree on much of anything. It seemed like every meeting ended with some of us going home angry and upset. One night I was in such turmoil that I couldn’t sleep. So I began to pray and call out to the Lord for help with the Board meetings. The Lord gave me comfort that night, and as I began to seek the Lord and think through how we do our meetings, I began to have some insights.”
“Go on, what were they? What did the Lord show you?” asked Thomas.
“I realized that we were in the midst of a battle of the wills,” said Gabe.
“That’s exactly what we said before you walked up!” exclaimed Brian.
“I think we have all been there, haven’t we?” Gabe agreed. “In my case, the picture the Lord gave me in my mind’s eye was of two big bucks, you know, male deer, locking horns and pushing each other around. I could see that we were locked in battle and none of us would give up. In every decision that needed to be made we would lock horns and do battle just because we wanted to win the victory over the others. And then the Lord said something to me that changed my life and the way we do board meetings – He told me that we were so busy battling over our own wills, my will be done, that we never even asked Him what His will was in the matter. Sure, we prayed a perfunctory prayer at the start of the meeting and asked for His will to be done but we never really pressed in and prayed from our hearts that Thy will be done.”
"And then the Lord said something to me that changed my life and the way we do board meetings – He told me that we were so busy battling over our own wills, my will be done, that we never even asked Him what His will was in the matter."
“And that is a huge difference!” exclaimed Mark. “Laying down our own wills, our own agendas, and asking God what He wants to be done changes everything. I have done that in my own personal life but never thought to do it in a board meeting! It just seems like the financial issues and the practical realities of life get in the way of just seeking God and discerning His will.”
“That’s right!” agreed Gabe. “It changed everything for us. We began devoting the first half of our meetings to seeking God and hearing from Him together as a group. We would sing a few songs in worship, read from the Scriptures as we felt led, and just wait on Him, resting in His peace and enjoying His love for us. He began speaking to us about how we should value one another over getting our own way with everything. He showed us how much He loves each and every one of us and how it grieves Him when we fight among ourselves. He gave us a vision for being a team, moving forward in unity, having the same goals and mind and Spirit, instead of being divided individuals battling for our own petty agendas. His agenda became our agenda, and that made all the decision-making so much easier. Even if we disagree, we now take time to hear each other out and pray about it right there in the meeting. If we can’t come to an agreement, we put it aside until the next meeting so that we can all think and pray about it.”
“But I bet you still have times when you can’t agree,” said Thomas.
“Yes, there are those times, but often the Lord will help us to see the viewpoints of the others with an open mind. Sometimes He changes minds but more often He shows us a compromise or another way to accomplish our goals. At the very least, even if we still disagree, those in the minority can willingly submit to the will of the group and assume that it is God’s will for now and be okay with it. We can walk away as friends who happen to disagree on an issue but still love one another and care for one another.”
“That is so much better than walking away as enemies who avoid each other or stare each other down on Sunday mornings!” said Brian.
“You said it!” exclaimed Gabe. “Prayer and seeking God’s will and loving one another from the heart makes all the difference! It becomes God’s meeting, not yours. The problems belong to Him, not you. Board members become your best friends and biggest allies, not enemies or people who oppose you. So let’s pray right now for this shift in thinking, this change in priorities, to happen not just in us but in each of the board members in the churches we serve.” The men bowed their heads and began to pray, really pray from their hearts with urgency and conviction, and when they were done, they realized that Gabe was no longer with them.
“Nuts!” exclaimed Thomas. “I have some more questions for him.”
“And I wanted to thank him for the insight,” said Brian. “What he said really made sense, I know it was from the Lord and I’m going to implement his ideas as best I can.”
“Me too,” said Mark. “Maybe that was really from God in a way that we don’t even understand. I’ve never seen Gabe before, at this conference or anywhere else, and I get the feeling I won’t again this side of heaven. Do you think he was an angel?”
“Hard to say,” said Brian. “I know Hebrews talks about that but I have never experienced talking with an angel before. Either way, let’s do what he said. Let’s make God and His agenda be the focal point of our meetings and everything else will fall into place.”
“Amen and amen!” they all agreed.
None of the three pastors ever saw Gabe again. But their lives and their churches were changed as they began to follow Gabe’s advice.
Points to Ponder and Discuss
Many of us have been on a church board or council at some point in our lives, what was your experience? Good or bad? What could have been done differently?
The principles shared by Gabe are common Christian teachings that we apply to our personal lives – seeking God’s will rather than our own, seeking first the kingdom of God and trusting that everything else will be added on to us, praying and experiencing first-hand how God can make things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace – why do we often struggle to apply these truths to our church council/board meetings?
Church business meetings – councils, boards, congregational votes, etc. – are all patterned after modern organizations and the wisdom of man. Is this a good idea? Or should our church business meetings reflect the values and instructions of the New Testament?
Let’s Pray Together:Lord, we know that it is Your will that we move together in unity, full of love for one another and for You. Help us to not get bogged down in power struggles or ego-stroking or personal agendas. Help us to let Your agenda be our agenda. Speak to our church board/council members and lead them into greater relationship with you and with one another. Let them value people more than things. Help them to seek first your kingdom and to trust that everything the church needs will be given. I lift the following council/board members before You now…(continue praying as you feel led)